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Ecuador Arts & Crafts:

Panama hats | Weavers of Otavalo | Woodcarvings | Bags | Bread figures | Primitivist paintings | Andean dress pins

In Ecuador, there are many places you can go shopping, especially "artesanias" (handicrafts). The indigenous people make no distinction between fine arts and crafts. Therefore, handicrafts are valued for their practical use and beauty, as well as their labor work.
 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Panama hats

For over a 100 years, most people have been ignoring the fact that the Panama hat comes from Ecuador. This confusion was originated because until the 20th century, South American goods, such as: minerals, cloth, sugar, fruit and several other commodities including the Panama hat, were exported through the Isthmus of Panama, which was the safest way to Europe and the United States. A couple of centuries ago, people from the United States (gold seekers) used to purchase some of these straw hats.

About sixty years later, workers from the Panama Canal found out that these hats were the most convenient to protect them against the sun. Since then, they named the hats after the place of purchase, and not for their place of origin and the name passed on through generations. The hat is made out of a plant called "Carludovica Palmata", which grows in the western hills of Guayaquil. These plants are boiled, then dried and finally taken to weaving centers, such as: Azogues, Biblian, Sigsig, Montecristi and Jipijapa in Manabi Province. It takes up to three months to manufacture these hats. Montecristi, produces the best Panama hat called "Superfinos" that when turned upside down, these hats should hold water same as a glass. When rolled up, they should be able to go back to its original shape without a scratch or wrinkle. For additional information, see our Panama Hat Exports section.

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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Weavers of Otavalo

Throughout the highlands pretty woven textiles are still made, without having changed their ancient techniques. Otavalo, is one of the most important weaving and trade centers also known for its famous handicrafts market.

The history of weaving started way back at the time of conquest when the Spanish exploited the human resource of the country through the feudal system. A textile workshop was then established in Otavalo, as well as in Cotacachi and Peguche using indigenous labor and Western technology, such as: the treadle loom, spinning wheel, etc. When the feudal system finished, it was replaced by the "huasipungo" system, which rendered the indigenous people virtual estates on the large farms that were created. Many of these estates kept operating weaving workshops, producing a vast amount of cloth in order to commercialize it.
The textile industry begun in the 1917 when weaving styles and techniques were introduced by the Scottish to the native workers. Because of its success, it spread to other villages nearby. Fifty years later, the huasipungo system was abolished, granting the indigenous people title to their pieces of land and allowing them to weave independently.
Nowadays, weaving is focused mainly on tourists and exportation. The people from Otavalo are famous, not only for their weaving, but also for their success as traders. They frequently travel to North America, Venezuela, Colombia and also Europe, in order to find new markets.

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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Woodcarvings

During the colonial time, churches required woodcarved pieces in order to adorn the interiors of their buildings. Rich families used woodcarving for their chairs, benches, chests and mirrors, to decorate their salons.
Between the 16th and 17th century, woodcarvers from Spain settled in San Antonio. Nowadays, San Antonio de Ibarra is considered to be the most important woodcarving center in South America.
At first, the Spanish-Moorish styles were imported to the New World. However, the workshops of San Antonio spread throughout Chile, Argentina and Colombia, with their own styles. Today, everybody in San Antonio is dedicated to woodcarving. As a matter of fact, every shop sells carved wooden figures. If they do not have what you want, they will be happy to order it for you.

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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Bags

Plant fiber can also be used to saw fabric for bags and other articles. Backpacks are very popular and you can carry much about anything in there.
In Cotopaxi province, you will find the famous "shigras", which are bags made from sisal. These bags were originally used to store dry food. Supposedly, they were even used to carry water from the wells. The fiber swell when wet to make the bags water resistant. Plastic containers almost destroyed the shigras, until the Westerns increased the demands on this product. Shigras are sold at the market in Salcedo.
The bags are portable and can be sewn very easily. Today, women´s production is often organized by suppliers who provide dyed fibers for sewing and later buy the bags to sell. A large needle is used to sew the strong material and the finished article can last for a very long time.

 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Bread figures

Calderón, located northeast of Quito, is famous for its bread. As soon as you enter this town, you will find shops selling colored figured made of flour and water in every corner.

This tradition started because every year, during All Souls Day, people make small dolls made of bread called "guaguas de pan". These dolls, as well as other figures shaped as men, women and donkeys made of wooden molds, were decorated with a simple cross over the chest in green, black, or red and were offered to the hungry souls of the dead. Eventually, people started to give these dolls as gifts to children and friends.

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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Primitivist paintings

Because of the acceptance of tourists, a regional craft has been developed in the province of Cotopaxi and surrounding areas, which is basically primitivist painting on leather of village scenes. You can obtain these paintings in Otavalo, Quito, or other tourist destinations. The prices may change, depending on the quality of the product.

 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Andean dress pins

The typical pre-Hispanic woman wears a dress that has an urku, the chumpi or belt and the llicilla. The urku is a large rectangular cloak which covered the woman completely.
For about one century, this dress was very popular in the rural areas. As a matter of fact, Andean women still wear this type of dress, but the model has changed a little bit. Nowadays, this dress has acquired a western style.

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Ecuador Arts & Crafts:

Panama hats | Weavers of Otavalo | Woodcarvings | Bags | Bread figures | Primitivist paintings | Andean dress pins


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